Nadal and his foot under scrutiny as he chases his third Wimbledon title

LONDON, June 24 (Reuters) – When Wimbledon rolls out the lush green carpet to welcome Rafael Nadal to the championships for the first time in three years next week, it will be the Spaniard’s foot, rather than his formidable forehand, that will be scrutinized. to the nth degree.

Until a few days ago, very few people had even heard of ‘radiofrequency ablation therapy’ – a procedure that uses heat on the nerve to soothe long-term pain.

But it is thanks to this procedure, which the 36-year-old underwent earlier this month to treat a degenerative condition that affects the bones in his feet, that he is able to feature at the All England Club on loan. aiming for the Grand Slam title. number 23.

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When Nadal showed up at the Australian Open in January, he hadn’t won a major in 15 months, had been out for five months with chronic foot pain and admitted he had considered to give up everything for good.

Even in Nadal’s wildest dreams, it’s unlikely the Spaniard could have imagined the sequence of events that would unfold over the next six months.

Although he is troubled daily by intense pain and discomfort in his feet, his superhuman body managed to carry him through an incredible 50 sets at the Australian Open and French Open to lead his general slam to a male. record 22 – including a breathtaking 14 titles at Roland Garros.

“In general, it’s just amazing what Rafa has achieved,” Nadal’s arch-rival Roger Federer, who won 20 majors, told Tages-Anzeiger.

“Pete Sampras’ record, which I broke, was 14 Grand Slam titles. Now Rafa has won the French Open 14 times. It’s amazing. He keeps raising the bar. It’s gigantic .”

Thanks to this series of unexpected successes, Nadal arrives at Wimbledon halfway through a calendar year Grand Slam – a position he has never been in before.

While the sporting world will be keen for him to win the calendar’s third slam leg – a feat last achieved in 1969 by Rod Laver – the lowly Mallorcan crusader isn’t driven by records or numbers .

“It’s not about being the best in history. It’s not about records,” the 2008 and 2010 Wimbledon champion said recently.

“It’s about: I love what I do. I love playing tennis. And I love competing.

“What keeps me going is the passion for the game, to experience moments that stay with me forever…and to play in front of the best crowds in the world and the best stadiums.”

During the French Open, there was a lingering fear that every game Nadal played at Roland Garros could be his last.

With age no longer on his side and the medical interventions needed just to keep going more and more frequent, the feeling that the finish line of his career is fast approaching is unlikely to go away.

Much about Nadal’s prospects at Wimbledon remains uncertain. Will he go the distance on the slippery surface that has been the hardest on his body? Will he face great rival Novak Djokovic in the July 10 final? Can he leave Wimbledon with his hopes of completing the Grand Slam calendar still intact?

Amidst all these unknown factors, the one thing that is certain is that the fans who will turn up in their thousands will cherish every second of the fist-pumping action he provides on the pitch – after all, nobody knows if it will be his final. hooray on tennis’ most famous stage.

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Reporting by Pritha Sarkar, editing by Toby Davis

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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